Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lavender Hill Farm

We were in Niles last week to visit the Fort St. Joseph Museum so stopped by the U-pick Lavender Hill Farm. It is open mid June through mid July for picking, yet also has an online store.


There are several chairs under the trees. We were ready for lunch so ate our picnic under the trees. We looked up into the sea of green above us and identified the different leaf shapes, types, and trees we were seeing in our conversation. We also looked out over the pastured sheep and pond in the distance. It is a very pretty farm in a pleasant situation. It's a nice place to get away to the country for a bit. Even while sitting here we could smell the lavender waft over to us. 


At the building, they had a list of recommended varieties, as well as examples tied up of what we could expect. We grabbed a couple of pairs of scissors and the large twist tie and headed out to the lavender fields. I had six kids with me, so a couple pairs of scissors was just right--there was no running with scissors or lost scissors with just the two sets.

There are rows and rows of lavender, each with a name at the end. Many people were out from the Niles area, Chicago, and other parts of Michiana. There is plenty of space between rows. 

The kids all had several turns clipping and holding our bunch of lavender. It smelled divine! 

The kids noticed distinct mushrooms growing a few places! I think this is the dog stinkhorn mushroom. The fields are pretty!

We could also see the bees pollinating the flowers--it was neat seeing them buzz around! There are beehives off to the side of the fields. They sell lavender honey in the store and online. I tasted a sample--yummy! 

Attention to detail, focus, observation skills, cutting practice, sensory intake, color recognition, pollination, etc.--we could work on all of these skills through our experience cutting the lavender. 

I have a confession. The kids really enjoyed our experience with the lavender. They went from clump to clump cutting and adding to our bouquet. However, their attention span was only about 15 minutes. I was grateful there were open spaces nearby they could use for play. With older kids in tow, they could help watch the younger ones. They hung out near the trees and field while I continued picking to reach our full bundle that fit in the twisty tie. That's how it is measured. With this trip, one bundle was $5. You can fit a lot of lavender stems in a twisty tie! :-) 

I talked to several people while I was there. One lady said she used her lavender for "everything!". She uses it in drinks, bath products, cleaning, and more. Others mentioned they came with friends. I saw families and multi-generation groups as well. I also was able to meet the owner. She was out picking a sample lavender bouquet for a wedding table. These will be dried and then sent to the bride through the mail. What service! She shared how this was the 30 acre family farm and how they transitioned to growing lavender. From the Lavender Hill Farm website, I see they are using natural practice as much as possible, planted native plants and grasses, and are ecologically restoring the farm over time. Martha has degrees in landscape architecture and chemistry, botany, & plant pathology--she knows her stuff! I love that they are finding a way to make their farm work sustainably! 

The store is also a neat treat! They had samples of their honey and lavender lemonade. Delicious! There were many types of lavender products, such as already cut bundles, lip balms, essential oils, soaps, cleaning products, etc. They also had accessories, such as spray bottles, and such. There was a selection of hand made cards created locally, artwork, and woven towels. It's all displayed nicely.

Products can also be purchased online. I loved the attention to detail in the stamped paper bag and paper wrapped lavender! It reminded me of the presentation of my purchases when I lived in Japan--classy! They also provide a many recipes online to peruse and use as well. 

I thought this was a great experience for my kids, even if they didn't last a whole bundle's worth of lavender. It was a good way to get outside and see where lavender comes from! I like that we were connected with the farm and the products directly. I recommend this for anyone who likes lavender, gardening, cooking, peaceful places, or just wants some time out connecting to the land!